Dubbed as one of the greatest songs of all time by RollingStone magazine, “Bohemian Rhapsody” poses a unique elegance and mystery around it. The seemingly non-sensical lyrics have paved the way to hundreds of interpretations of the lyrics and nobody to argue on them either. So, even today, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is considered one of the hallmark creations of music and we will try to interpret the song and lyrics to the best of our capabilities.
Queen’s lead singer Freddie Mercury wrote the lyrics to “Bohemia Rhapsody,” and many believe that there is a lot of ‘Freddie’ in the lyrics as well. Probably, this is what made the song so complex and bewildering. The track was released as the first single off of Queen’s fourth studio album ‘A Night at the Opera’ in 1975. The album became Queen’s most prominent work yet, recording Platinum sales and the single an undying timeless classic.
Key Features of “Bohemian Rhapsody” Track
“Bohemian Rhapsody” was not just another great piece of music. This was one of the longest single-running for 6 minutes-at that time which was controversial itself. On top of that, this track is considered one of the most expensive tracks made at that time.
The song also jumps hoops between several composition styles and genres. The song essential has 5 parts: Intro, Ballad, Opera, Rock and Outro. Because of this, the single is considered Pop Rock, Hard Rock, Progressive Rock, Progressive Pop, Classic Rock, and maybe even Balladic.
It is said that it took Freddie Mercury 7 years to write the entire song of “Bohemian Rhapsody” and there has been no known help to him in this regard.
The song peaked at #1 on UK Singles Chart for nine weeks upon release, and returned to the same spot in 1991 after the death of Freddie Mercury and held the position for another five weeks. Estimated sales of the single up to date crosses over 6 million worldwide. In 2021, the song was 10x Diamond certified by RIAA in the USA.
Watch Official Music Video for “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Freddie Mercury never explained the meaning of the lyrics he wrote, however, he did give some background information about it;
“I’m going to shatter some illusions, it was just one of those pieces I wrote for the album: just writing my batch of songs. In its early stages I almost rejected it, but then it grew. We started deciding on a single about halfway through. There were a few contenders – we were thinking of “The Prophet’s Song” at one point – but then “Bohemian Rhapsody” seemed the one. There was a time when the others wanted to chop it around a bit, but I refused. If it was going to be released, it would be in its entirety. We knew it was very risky, but we had so much confidence in that song – I did anyway. I felt, underneath it all, that if it was successful it would earn a lot of respect. People were all going, You’re joking, they’ll never play it, you’ll only hear the first few bars and then they’ll fade it out. We had numerous rows. EMI were shocked – a six-minute single? You must be joking! The same in America – oh, you just got away with it in Britain.”
Lyrics Review and Song Meaning of “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Let’s try and put a bit of perspective into these lyrics by Freddie. Since, there are different interpretations of the song, sustaining one theme throughout the analysis would be a tedious task.
First, what does the title “Bohemian Rhapsody” means? According to Wikipedia, ‘Bohemianism’ is a form of detaching from popular culture. These people focus on developing their ties with nature, spirituality, and even self. This kind of behavior is reflected in lyrics such as “easy come, easy go,” and “nothing really matters” attitude. ‘Rhapsody’ is an expression of powerful feelings and emotions.
However, at one point of time, Mercury said the song was about “relationships,” so we will try to look at the lyrics in the same POV.
The intro section to “Bohemian Rhapsody” gives us a briefing into the first person of the song. He is bewildered and cannot make sense of reality and fantasy. He knows what is real and not. But he is at a state of mind where reality is too harsh to accept. He could close his eyes and try to forget the reality. But it is not possible. Instead he looks up at the skies with open eyes. This is usually a reference to seeking assistance from a higher being-probably God, in this scenario.
He also presents himself as of a ‘bohemian’ nature-carefree and easy going. What has happened to him recently is fighting against this nature of his. But he calls him “just a poor boy” who has little interest of what is going around him. But he needs no sympathy because he is better off than everyone else as he is somewhat detached from worldly ties.
“Little high” and “little low” represent the struggles and victories of his carefree life. He does not try to fight against the wind–he just flows with the wind.
The ballad begins.
Freddie Mercury goes into a confessional mode in “Bohemian Rhapsody” now. It is noteworthy that he addresses his mom at this crucial point of time in his life. He may be a bohemian with little care of the world, but he has been pushed to such an extreme that he has killed a man! He confesses this sin to his mother, because mothers are known to be the most forgiving kind.
The reality has struck now! There is a man dead and the trigger is in his hands. Whatever emotions that led him to do that, now he has to face the reality. This is where, the first verse links with the intro of the song.
The singer is most likely in his twenties-which he calls just the beginning of life and with this crime, he thinks his life has come to an end as well.
Freddie also confesses that he didn’t intend to make her cry, but he has no plans of returning home after this crime. He just begs his mother to just carry on as if nothing happened.
Homosexuality Claims on “Bohemian Rhapsody?”
First verse is also where the claims on references of Freddie Mercury being homosexual pan out.
There are many interpretations that ‘Mama’ could refer to Mary Austin, whom Freddie had a relationship for over 7 years. They were never married, but sources say that Freddie was completely in love with her and they lived together.
So, if you look at the whole man killing scenario as a sex act between two men, Freddie could be apologizing Mary for keeping such a thing from her. His life arrangement with Mary was going so well, but now he is about to throw it all away with this man. The singer says he might even not return home tomorrow, as he will be with his new partner.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” Performed Live in 1986
The operatic bits come now.
This verse of “Bohemian Rhapsody” has the singer wallowing over the fact that his life is, too, coming to an end. His body shakes at the thought of this. He bids farewell to his loved ones and face the truth or reality that he has tried to hide for so long.
The reality could be the murder or the sexual orientations, whichever, at the thought, reminds him of ‘Mama.’
The death he speaks of constantly could be a literal punishment for the murderous crime he committed or the fact that he will be dead to the society if his sexual orientations were discovered. Back in 70s, homosexuality was a severe crime enforced by religious groups.
“Bohemia Rhapsody” shifts into fifth gear at this junction of the song.
There are a lot of new words that needs explaining here. So, we will take one by one into interpretation and fit them into the meaning of the song.
Silhouette is often a shadowy figure. Is Mercury seeing death approaching him? Scaramouche in Italian means ‘little skirmisher,’ but found in delle’arte’s comedic theatric arts. He is usually portrayed wearing full black attire. Is this the ‘silhouetto’ he is seeing? Fandango is a couple dance originated from Spain. Ths character looks, hysterical dance moves and behaviour represent that of death, so it is only natural that thunder and lightening is added to the background music.
Galileo Galilei was a pioneering astronomer who was imprisoned by the catholic church for his contributons to science and knowledge. The real connection of this to the song is shrouded in mystery, except for the weak link that catholic church is against homosexuality.
Live Acoustic Cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Bismillah (بسم الله) is an Arabic phrase meaning “in the Name of God.” So, putting this into the rest of the lyrics, it would read something like “Let him go! In the Name of God! We will not let you go…” More points towards, this song being about a confession of homosexuality.
Then we find Freddie screaming “good heavens” in Italian (Mamma mia) praying him to let him be with his feelings.
Beelzebub (literally, from ancient Hebrew – “lord of the flies”) is one of the seven princes of hell in Christian literature. This is as a close synonym to Satan as any. So, Freddie believes Satan himself is out to get him for his crimes-which of the two is quite clear. For the murder of a man, we would not believe Satan himself would personally get involved!
We reach the final lyrics and the true Rock part of the song.
This part has the singer questioning his oppressors. He is questioning why he would be any different from anyone else because of what he has done or what he is. Being stoned is a form of punishment carried out in religious extremist countries. If Freddie was addressing his love-Mary Austin, we can conclude that she has not been very understanding of whatever news he broke to her. So, we can rule out that ‘Mama’ meant his mother, as the mother’s love goes beyond any crime that a child could commit.
Last lines of verse 4 could mean that the singer feels trapped in whatever belief he is being forced to live in. He seeks redemption and for that he needs to get away from this trap.
Pink Covers “Bohemian Rhapsody” Live
The outro of “Bohemia Rhapsody” is a solemn realization that nothing really matters. His life, his choices, his wishes, his orientations, likes and dislikes does not really matter to him or anybody else. So he just let himself go with the wind.
So we conclude the interpretation and lyrics analysis of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which is no easy task. If you have stayed with us this long, make sure to leave a comment about your thoughts on this song, music, lyrics or even the late great Freddie Mercury.